Boleskine House

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Boleskine House
Taigh Both Fhleisginn (in Scottish Gaelic)
Boleskine house.png
Boleskine House in 1912
General information
Architectural styleManor house
Town or cityFoyers
CountryScotland
Completedc.1760

Boleskine House (Scottish Gaelic: Taigh Both Fhleisginn) is a manor on the south-east side of Loch Ness in the Scottish Highlands. It is notable for having been the home of author and occultist Aleister Crowley, and Led Zeppelin guitarist and producer Jimmy Page. It suffered significant fire damage in December 2015.

Background[edit]

Boleskine Cemetery in 2007

Boleskine House is 21 miles (34 km) south of Inverness, on the opposite side of Loch Ness from the Meall Fuar-mhonaidh, and halfway between the villages of Foyers and Inverfarigaig.[1][2]

The area has a history of strange happenings long before Aleister Crowley moved in. The parish of Boleskine was formed in the 13th Century.[3] A Kirk and graveyard were built in the parish around this time. A succession of Ministers ran Boleskine Parish and would travel the area on horseback or on foot in all weather conditions. Minister Thomas Houston (1648-1705) was said to have had the task of hastily laying animated corpses back in their graves after a devious local wizard had raised the dead in Boleskine graveyard.[3][4]

Boleskine House was built on the site of the kirk, which, according to legend, caught fire during congregation and killed everyone inside.[5][1] The house was constructed in the 1760s by Colonel Archibald Fraser as a hunting lodge.[1][6][7] Colonel Archibald Fraser apparently chose the site specifically to irritate Simon Fraser, 11th Lord Lovat in retribution for his support of the English during the Jacobite rising of 1745 as Lord Lovat's land surrounded the site of Boleskine.[8]

The original hunting lodge was expanded continuously by the Fraser family until c. 1830. All the rooms were situated on one floor, with 4 bedrooms, a kitchen, lounge, drawing room, and a library.[9] There is even a tunnel linking the house to the graveyard.[1][10]

Boleskine Mortuary House in the graveyard in 2002

Aleister Crowley's ownership (1899–1913)[edit]

Crowley in ceremonial garb, 1912

Crowley purchased Boleskine House from the Fraser family in 1899. The House at that time was known as the Manor of Boleskine and Abertarff after the name of the local parish.[11] Crowley believed the location was ideal to sequester himself to perform a series of operations known as the Sacred Magic of Abramelin the Mage, taken from a grimoire called The Book of Abramelin.[12][13]

According to Crowley, in his book The Confessions of Aleister Crowley, in order to perform the operations "the first essential is a house in a more or less secluded situation. There should be a door opening to the north from the room of which you make your oratory. Outside this door, you construct a terrace covered with fine river sand. This ends in a 'lodge' where the spirits may congregate."[14]

The purpose of this ritual is to invoke one's Guardian Angel.[15]

It requires at least 6 months of preparation, celibacy and abstinence from alcohol. However, it also includes the summoning of the 12 Kings and Dukes of Hell, to bind them and remove their negative influences from the magician's life.[15][16] Whilst Crowley was in the process of performing the lengthy ritual, he was called to Paris by the leader of the Golden Dawn. According to legend, he never banished the demons he had summoned, leading to strange happenings occurring in and around Boleskine House.[16]

Crowley became infamous for stories of conducting black magic and various other rituals while residing at the house;[2] one of his pseudonyms was "Lord Boleskine".[17][18] His lodge keeper, Hugh Gillies, suffered a number of personal tragedies, including the loss of two children.[2] Crowley later claimed that his experiments with black magic had simply got out of hand.[10]

Crowley described the house as a "long low building. I set apart the south-western half for my work. The largest room has a bow window and here I made my door and constructed the terrace and lodge. Inside the room I set up my oratory proper. This was a wooden structure, lined in part with the big mirrors which I brought from London."[14]

He left the property in 1913, moving to a modest cottage for sometime in Dennyloanhead near Falkirk.

1913–1970[edit]

After the First World War, Hollywood actor George Raft was involved in a scandal selling shares for a pig farm supposedly built on the grounds of Boleskine - except the farm didn't exist.[8] After the Second World War the house was owned by a Major Edward Grant. In 1965, Grant committed suicide in Crowley's bedroom with a shotgun.[2][19]

After this a newly married couple moved into the house. The wife was blind, and after a month the man walked out, leaving the woman wandering around unable to see.[20] In 1969 Kenneth Anger, an experimental filmmaker with an interest in the occult, learned that the house was on the market and rented it for a few months.[8] When Jimmy Page heard about this, he bought the house in 1970.[21]

Jimmy Page's ownership (1970–1992)[edit]

Jimmy Page in 2008

Jimmy Page was a collector of Crowley memorabilia who "had read a lot of Crowley and ... was fascinated by his ideas".[22][23][24] At the time Page bought the house it was in a state of decay, but he felt it would be a good atmosphere in which to write songs.[5] However, after arranging for the house to be restored he spent little time at Boleskine, leaving things in the care of his friend Malcolm Dent (1944-2011).

When asked why he was chosen, Dent explained "Jimmy Page caught me at a time in my life when I wasn't doing a great deal and asked me to come up and run the place. I never did establish why he fixed on me."[25] When Dent moved into the house "it was a wreck ... It had been more or less abandoned. There'd been at least one fire there, parts of the building were missing and it had been badly patched up. The grounds, which at one time had been very nicely laid out were gone to hell".[25]

Although Dent was a sceptic of the paranormal he soon started to experience strange occurrences. After a few weeks, he heard strange rumblings from the hallway which stopped when he investigated, but resumed after he closed the bedroom door. After researching the house he discovered the rumbling in the hall was supposedly the head of Lord Lovat, even though he was executed in London. Dent explains "above Boleskine there's a place called Errogie which is supposed to be the geographical centre of the Highlands. Boleskine was then the nearest consecrated ground to Errogie and it's thought his soul, or part of it, ended here."[21][25]

Dent also experienced the "most terrifying night of my life" at Boleskine.[21] He awoke one night to hear what sounded like a wild animal snorting and banging outside his bedroom door. It went on for some time and it wasn't until morning that Dent dared open the door, and there was nothing there. Dent added "whatever was there was pure evil."[21] Another friend who stayed at Boleskine awoke one night claiming she had been attacked by "some kind of devil".[26] Other occurrences, such as chairs switching places, doors slamming open and closed for no reason and carpets and rugs rolling up inexplicably, failed to deter Dent from staying.[21] Dent met his wife at Boleskine and raised his family there.

Although Jimmy Page never spent a great length of time there, he did everything he could to return the house to how it would have looked during Crowley's ownership.[26] For example, he commissioned an artist, Charles Pace, to paint some Crowley-esque murals on the walls. These were based on the murals in Crowley's Abbey of Thelema in Sicily discovered by Kenneth Anger in 1955.[26]

MacGillivray family (1992–2002)[edit]

The house was put on the market for £250,000 in 1991.[27] It was purchased by Ronald and Annette MacGillivray in 1992.[28] According to Mrs. MacGillivray, when they bought the house it was in a very bad state.[28][29] The MacGillivrays "spent a lot of money stripping it back to the bare walls and re-roofing it. It had four bedrooms, four bathrooms, a huge drawing room, dining room, library and various smaller rooms".[28] The house was then converted into a hotel.[29]

Ronald MacGillivray died in 2002.[30] He was said to hate any reference to the house's dark past when it was home to Crowley.[30]

When asked whether she had experienced any mysterious occurrences at Boleskine House, his wife states that she experienced— "absolutely none. I am a non-believer and didn't listen to all that rubbish. We had a great time there."[28]

Private ownership (2002–2015)[edit]

Following Ronald MacGillivray's death, Boleskine House was put up for sale again.[31] The new Dutch owners, who have remained anonymous, converted the house back into a private residence and used it as a holiday home.[32]

In 2009, a 1.9-acre (7,700 m2) plot on the former estate was put on the market for £176,000 with plans to build a three-bedroom log house. The sale also included 140 feet (43 m) of foreshore on Loch Ness.[2]

Conflagration (2015)[edit]

At approximately 1:40 pm on 23 December 2015, a motorist on the A82 road reported flames and smoke coming from Boleskine House.[28][31] When fire crews attended, it is estimated up to 60 per cent of the building had already been incinerated, with flames rising up to 20 feet (6 m) high. The firefighters concentrated on the west wing of the house, as the rest of the building had been severely damaged.[33]

The owner's partner and daughter had gone shopping and returned to find the house ablaze.[32] The fire was thought to have started in the kitchen, however nobody was believed to be in the house at the time of the fire and there were no casualties.[32][33]

Today[edit]

The interior of the house was almost totally destroyed by the fire. Part of the roof and the outer walls survive, but the former owner, Mrs. MacGillivray, has said that since the extent of the damage is so bad it "is unlikely it will ever be rebuilt unless there is someone out there with an interest in the occult wanting to spend a lot of money."[28] It is believed that the house was due to go on the market.[28]

Boleskine House is a Category B listed building,[34] as is the adjacent stables and gate lodge.

In literature[edit]

Boleskine House is described and recognisable in W. Somerset Maugham's The Magician where it is called "Skene". Crowley considered Maugham's book to be plagiarism and wrote an article under the name of Oliver Haddo (the name of a character taken from Maugham's book) for Vanity Fair as a witty riposte. (For details, see Crowley's autobiography, Confessions, listed above.)

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d "House of the unholy". The Scotsman. 22 November 2007. Retrieved 2 May 2014.
  2. ^ a b c d e Kelbie, Paul (19 April 2009). "For sale on Loch Ness: Aleister Crowley's centre of dark sorcery". The Guardian. Retrieved 2 May 2014.
  3. ^ a b "Celebrating Four Generations" (PDF). The Boleskine Bulletin. Autumn 2004. Retrieved 20 August 2016.
  4. ^ "Aleister Crowley, The Beast of Boleskine". 16 June 2012. Retrieved 20 August 2016.
  5. ^ a b Hoskyns 2012, p. 167.
  6. ^ Redfern 2013, p. 120.
  7. ^ Macleod, Calum (3 November 2006). "FA rock legend and black arts figured in Malcolm's life". Inverness Courier. Retrieved 18 November 2015.
  8. ^ a b c Wall 2008, p. 229
  9. ^ "Boleskine House and Abertaff". Retrieved 9 May 2016.
  10. ^ a b Redfern 2004, p. 205.
  11. ^ Confessions. ibidem.
  12. ^ Symonds J, Grant K (eds), The Confessions of Aleister Crowley Penguin 1979:184
  13. ^ The Book of Abramelin
  14. ^ a b Crowley, Aleister (1969). The Confessions of Aleister Crowley. Hill and Wang. ISBN 0-80903-591-X.
  15. ^ a b Macgregor Mathers, S.L (1975). The Book of the Sacred Magic of Abramelin the Mage. Dover Publications. ISBN 0-85030-255-2.
  16. ^ a b "Terrified BBC Call Exorcist To House Of Satan". Retrieved 17 November 2015.
  17. ^ Brown, J. F. (1978). "Aleister Crowley's Rites of Eleusis'". The Drama Review. 22 (2): 3–26. doi:10.2307/1145199. JSTOR 1145199.
  18. ^ Owen, Alex (1997). "The Sorcerer and His Apprentice: Aleister Crowley and the Magical Exploration of Edwardian Subjectivity". Journal of British Studies. 36 (1): 99–133. doi:10.1086/386129. JSTOR 175904.
  19. ^ Campsie, Alison (14 December 2015). "Jimmy Page and his black magic Highland home". The Scotsman. Retrieved 9 May 2016.
  20. ^ Wall 2008, p. 232
  21. ^ a b c d e Wall 2008, p. 230
  22. ^ Case 2007, p. 98.
  23. ^ Hoskyns 2012, p. xxvi.
  24. ^ Paglia, Camille (2003). "Cults and Cosmic Consciousness: Religious Vision in the American 1960s". Arion. 3. 10 (3): 57–111. JSTOR 20163901.
  25. ^ a b c "A rock legend and black arts figured in Malcolm's life". 3 November 2006. Retrieved 6 August 2016.
  26. ^ a b c Wall 2008, p. 231
  27. ^ Muir, Alan (11 July 1991). "Whole Lotta Cheek". Scottish Sun. p. 5.
  28. ^ a b c d e f g "Aleister Crowley's Inverness mansion destroyed by fire". The Scotsman. 23 December 2015. Retrieved 10 May 2016.
  29. ^ a b "A Visit to Boleskine". 26 February 2005. Retrieved 10 May 2016.[permanent dead link]
  30. ^ a b "Ronald MacGillivray". 18 February 2002. Retrieved 10 May 2016.
  31. ^ a b "Former Home of Most Evil Man in Britain burns Down". Telegraph. 23 December 2015. Retrieved 11 May 2016.
  32. ^ a b c "Owner "distraught" after Highland mansion gutted in blaze". Press and Journal. 26 December 2015. Retrieved 11 May 2016.
  33. ^ a b "Firefighters called to historic Boleskine House on Loch Ness". BBC. 2015-12-23. Retrieved 2015-12-24.
  34. ^ "Boleskine House (Ref:1849)". Listed building report. Historic Scotland. Retrieved 30 September 2014.

Sources[edit]

  • Case, George (2007). Jimmy Page: Magus, Musician, Man: an Unauthorized Biography. Hal Leonard. ISBN 978-1-4234-0407-1.
  • Hoskyns, Barney (2012). Led Zeppelin: The Oral History of the World's Greatest Rock Band. John Wiley & Sons. ISBN 978-1-118-22111-2.
  • Redfern, Nick (2013). The Most Mysterious Places on Earth. Rosen Publishing Group. ISBN 978-1-4777-0685-5.
  • Redfern, Nick (2004). Three Men Seeking Monsters: Six Weeks in Pursuit of Werewolves, Lake Monsters, Giant Cats, Ghostly Devil Dogs, and Ape-Men. Simon and Schuster. ISBN 978-1-4165-0057-5.
  • Macgregor Mathers, S.L (1975). The Book of the Sacred Magic of Abramelin the Mage. Dover Publications. ISBN 0-85030-255-2.
  • Crowley, Aleister (1969). The Confessions of Aleister Crowley. Hill and Wang. ISBN 0-80903-591-X.

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 57°15′55″N 4°28′29″W / 57.2653°N 4.4747°W / 57.2653; -4.4747